by Trent Thomas
In late February, six southern Arizona Rotary youth learned which country they are traveling to for their year long assignments. Rotary International has a vibrant student exchange program that facilitates the exchange of over 8,000+ teenagers around the world each year. Rotary kids can be sent to any one of 30+ participating countries around the world.
Their assignments are: Haley McIntyre (Slovakia), Daneila Mimiaga (Italy), James King (Brazil), David Gamez (Switzerland), and Paola Vidana (Thailand).
The teenagers will board aircraft and start travel this July. Integration in their new host homes begins day 1 upon arrival. Their new host families are expected to communicate with the Rotary kids as much as possible in the host language. In 2011, Kyle Nowell traveled to the Netherlands and quickly realized the language was going to be a challenge. “Learning to speak Dutch is hard to do, especially in a country where everyone already speaks English,” Kyle said. “I just committed myself to learning Dutch and after 4-5 months I was very fluent.” Kyle’s advice served him well and assisted with a successful integration into the new culture.
Participation costs are worthy of addressing. Costs range anywhere from $2,000-3,000 which includes the airfare, insurance, and travel documents. Andrea Coronado was an exchange student to Germany in 2014. “I was most nervous about finances. My mother worked 3 jobs in order to support me going overseas for my exchange.” Although the Rotary exchange program is the most reasonably priced program available, it must be accounted for when planning.
Cindy Harrison is the Youth Exchange Officer for the entire Rotary district of southern Arizona. Cindy is quite familiar with the benefits kids gain through these exchanges. “There is, of course, a new level of maturity and with the experience comes confidence and independence. They are certainly more willing to explore the new and different and to not be fearful of challenges,” explained Cindy. As a kid, Cindy grew up in a Rotary family that frequently hosted exchange students – her parents hosted over 50 kids from all over the world!
Andrea volunteered for the program because “I wanted to understand a different culture more in-depth. I didn’t want a vacation. I really wanted to work at something that was difficult.” Andrea became so fluent in German that when she started at the University of Arizona, she easily tested into third year German classes. Now she is finishing her major in German Political Science at the university.
Deadlines are approaching for interested candidates. “The spring is absolutely the time 10th and 11th grade students should be thinking about this program and the application process. Students are encouraged to apply during their 10th grade year and spend the year abroad during the 11th,” said Cindy. “Juniors in high school who are interested in going abroad their senior year are also welcome. We are very limited in sending students who have graduated from high school due to visa restrictions of other countries,” Cindy added.
For more information on Rotary youth exchanges or for participating as a host family for an international student, you are encouraged to visit www.rye5500.org
Picture (Attached) with sub caption: Exchange students traveling Arizona